Most of us are making big steps to be more eco-friendly at home. Thanks to TV programmes such as War on Plastic and blogs such as Little Green Ways (we hope!), things are changing for the better in our houses.
But what about at work? Is your business as green as it can be? Does your office have a good recycling policy or is plastic dumped in the regular bin? Often a workplace’s eco-policy can be a bit of a mystery.
Fear not! We’ve put together a Little Green Ways handy guide to making your workplace greener. If you’re the boss, you could ask your staff to put together an eco-group to manage this. If you’re an employee, why not form a group and ask the boss(es) what they’re doing now and what more they can do. It’s up to us all to do our bit – together, these small changes can be mighty.
Plants absorb toxins from the air, so why do many offices have so few of them? It doesn’t cost much to buy a few pot plants for each office space, and you can make a rota for watering and feeding them. It looks so much better than corporate grey walls and project plans, too!
If you also have outdoor space and you can choose what gets planted, consider planting some ivy screens or other hardy plants. A recent experiment showed that ivy screens planted outside a school on a busy London road reduced the toxin levels by more than 20%. That could make a huge difference to the health of the workforce as well as the planet.
Most writing is done on computers, but many of us still write on paper for taking meeting minutes, phone call notes, etc. Pens are mostly plastic-based, but they are difficult to recycle, so most of them get thrown in the bin. Why not swap to old-school pencils instead, which are much kinder to the planet? It also means that if you make mistakes, you can just rub them out instead of using (plastic-based) correction fluid!
Take a refillable cup to the coffee shop, to save all that single-use plastic and waxed cardboard, most of which doesn’t get recycled.
At home I use tea leaves with a mesh tea holder, and a coffee pot with ground coffee from local suppliers The Bean Shop, which offers paper bags. You could introduce the same at work! And if you buy a coffee at lunchtime, make sure you take a refillable cup to the coffee shop, to save all that single-use plastic and waxed cardboard, most of which doesn’t get recycled.
If you don’t have a staff canteen it’s easy to get into the habit of buying a supermarket sandwich, which comes in plastic or waxed cardboard. Then there’s the juice bottle, the plastic box of fruit salad or the carton with the plastic straw.
You could avoid all that by bringing your own lunch and drinks bottle, going to a local café, or visiting a local deli or bakery. They can put your lunchtime treats into a paper bag or your own container! In Perth, visit local indies Provender Brown, Casella & Polegato, Murrays Bakers, Tower Bakery or Goodfellow & Steven for a plastic bag-free takeaway lunch.
I’m ashamed to say I have lots of poly pockets – those plastic 'sleeves' for documents in ring-binder folders. I bought them years ago, before it hit me how much plastic we waste and how little is recycled. I also have some plastic ring-binder folders. I plan to donate them to a local charity or school and never buy any more!
If you keep work documents in ring-binders, ask yourself if you really, really need to put them in poly pockets. Could they be hole-punched instead, or stored in cardboard folders or files? If you must use poly pockets, try to store multiple documents in each, and reuse them again and again, checking around the workplace for unused ones before you order more.
I’m amazed by how many cars I see in the morning with just one person in them. Could your workplace suggest, or even incentivise, lift-sharing? It’s cheaper as well as better for the planet. Some businesses also offer cycling incentives including buying a bike in instalments taken from your salary. And remember, it doesn’t have to be a drastic change. If cycling, walking or taking the bus takes longer or is a bit trickier, you could start by doing it one or two days a week.
Check out how to reach your workplace by bus with our handy Stagecoach Journey Planner.
While researching this article I was shocked to hear of some local businesses that recycle none of their plastic or cardboard. Your workplace might be the same and you don’t realise. So why not find out? As a team, you can appeal to the bosses to change their ways and get a proper recycling system in place for plastics, cardboard and glass - here at Small City, we use the Binn Group. The PKC recycling team and Zero Waste Perth can offer lots of advice on this. That might encourage less plastic use in the first place, too!
As a team, you can appeal to the bosses to change their ways and get a proper recycling system in place for plastics, cardboard and glass.
Are your suppliers doing enough to reduce their impact on the environment? If they use polystyrene or plastic packaging, ask them if they can change to something kinder to the planet. If they send you a tiny item in a huge box, ask them to change their packing system. Pressure from customers can persuade suppliers to change their ways. Or consider using a supplier that offers environmentally friendly solutions!
Some plastics, such as polystyrene, plastic bags, plastic straws and snack wrappers, just can’t be recycled. However, a new way of thinking about plastic – Ecobricking – is putting that plastic to good use in the form of bricks, to make indoor and outdoor furniture, garden and park structures, building walls and more!
Business energy customers account for a huge percentage of the electricity used across the UK every day. But is your workplace using green power? Switching to green suppliers such as Good Energy, Green Energy UK or Ecotricity means that the electricity comes from only renewable sources.
You can also check if your business website is running on green energy by using this CO2 calculator for websites. If it isn’t, speak to your web team and see if you can change it!
Another really simple change is to swap your default search engine at work to Ecosia. For every 45 searches, Ecosia will plant one tree. Over 60 million have been planted already! It’s just as effective as other search engines and is making a huge difference to the world.
If everyone who could work from home did so for just one day a week, think of the potential reduction in traffic and pollution. Not to mention the increased productivity and the boost to staff morale. So come on, bosses, it’s time to consider seriously how you could help to make this happen. Your workforce will thank you and so will the planet!
Staff volunteering days are a great way to give back to the planet, and employees who get involved get a great feeling of wellbeing as a result. Consider offering your team’s time to projects such as Perth Community Farm or Trees for Life. You’ll all get so much out of it!
So now you’ve read the guide, it’s time to put it into action. Nag the boss, talk to your colleagues, start an eco-action group, contact your suppliers, tell your customers what you’re doing well. Remember: any change to help the environment is positive, so give yourself and your business a pat on the back for what you do already. And if you’re making loads of great green changes, tell your customers. They’ll appreciate any green changes you make, they’ll tell others and they’re more likely to stay loyal to you!
And if you come across a business that is doing its bit for the planet, please say thanks to them and tell others.
For a little green inspiration, or if you have any ideas you’d like to share, contact the team at Little Green Ways.
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